Fadi Tawil & Kareem Chehayeb
AP / September 12, 2023
SIDON, Lebanon – A top Hamas leader arrived in Beirut Tuesday to push for an end to clashes in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp that resumed despite multiple cease-fire agreements.
Days of fighting in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp near the southern port city of Sidon left at least six people dead and over 50 others wounded, according to medical officials and state media. Stray bullets and shells hit residential areas in the country’s third-largest city, wounding five Lebanese soldiers at checkpoints near the camp on Monday.
A cease-fire declared late Monday, after Lebanon’s head of the country’s General Security Directorate met with officials from rival Palestinian factions, lasted just hours before fighting erupted again.
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk will meet with Lebanese officials and representatives from the Palestinian factions to try and reach a settlement to end the clashes, the militant group said in a statement.
Hamas has not taken part in the clashes.
Fatah and other allied factions had intended to crack down on suspects accused of killing Fatah military general, Abu Ashraf al-Armoushi, in the camp in late July.
Osama Sa’ad, a Lebanese legislator representing Sidon said on Tuesday — in an interview with Lebanese TV station Al-Jadeed — that the camp clashes pose a wider threat to the whole country. He said al-Armoushi had “good relations with all the factions” and kept the tense camp relatively secure.
“As political forces, we have a responsibility, and so do the Palestinians and Lebanese authorities to resolve this,” Saad said.
Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 55,000 people according to the United Nations, and is notorious for its lawlessness, and violence.
Meanwhile, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, has been tending to hundreds of displaced families who fled the camp alongside other charities. Many have taken shelter in nearby mosques, schools, and the Sidon municipality building. UNRWA has relocated some 1,200 people to schools in the area from a mosque near the camp’s entrance.
“We left without our clothing and belongings. Children and women have no place to go,” Mariam Maziar, a Palestinian refugee who fled with her children told The Associated Press from a shelter in UNRWA’s Nablus School in Sidon. “Don’t they feel remorse for what they’re doing to us? Where are we supposed to go? Our homes are destroyed.”
Ain al-Hilweh camp was established in 1948 to house Palestinians who were displaced when Israel was established.
Kareem Chehayeb in Beirut contributed to this report